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In 2014, when a land area of 300 hectares in Rupat Island, Bengkalis Regency in Indonesia’s Riau province was burning, 42-year-old Sulaiman was among those deployed to help suppress the forest fire.

Sulaiman is a member of the Fast Emergency Response Team (FERT) at PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), which is responsible for handling any forest fires that affect RAPP concession areas.

Although the fire in Rupat Island was not a part of RAPP’s concessions, Sulaiman and his team decided to join the fight, alongside other firefighters from local government agencies.

“For two weeks, we were there to help. We had to go deep into the forest to reach the source of the fire,” said Sulaiman.

There was no direct access to the fire source, so the team had to walk five kilometres to the site while lugging their firefighting equipment and water sources with them, he said. 

Due to this, Sulaiman and the rest of the team also had to stay in the forest with limited food throughout the two weeks, as it would be unfeasible for them to leave the forest in the midst of their firefighting efforts.

“There were various challenges in the field, but we finally succeeded (in overcoming the fire),” said Sulaiman.

Sulaiman shares that being a leader of a firefighting squad was something that had never crossed his mind when he was growing up.

Fire Emergency Response Team is checking the fire suppresion tool
Sulaiman and Fire Emergency Response Team

A few years ago, life was tough for Apo, 32, and her family. 

She grew fruit and vegetables on her small plot of land in Penyengat village, but a lack of equipment and skills meant that yields were low. Her monthly income ranged from IDR300,000-IDR500,000 (USD20-34).

"Maybe because the land is not large and we were not focused, the result is not really much," said Apo.

Seeking improvement she joined the local Bina Tani farmer cooperative, which introduced Apo and other members of his village to the One Village One Commodity (OVOC) program, run by local pulp and paper company RAPP.

Aco one of the pineapple farmer
One Village One Commodity in Penyengat Village

RAPP Sialang Honey

Indonesia’s Riau province and its lowland tropical forests is home to a wide variety of Sialang trees – tall trees where bees reside and produce honey, aptly named ‘Sialang honey’.

The honey is prized by locals who believe it has health benefits, and harvesting Sialang honey has long been a traditional practice by the communities who reside near these forests.

However, the existence of Sialang honey is rare these days, primarily due to major deforestation practices over previous decades but also because of continuous harvesting of the honey throughout the years by farmers who did not realize the need to allow time for the honey supply to regenerate.

With low, unreliable harvests and a resulting lack of regular customers for the product, Sialang honey farmers therefore face uncertain incomes and livelihoods.

Seeing this problem, Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) decided to step in and help the Sialang honey farmers, by establishing Rumah Madu Andalan in RAPP’s Integrated Training and Business Development Centre.

RAPP's sialang honey Foresbi

Cloth Weaving Programme

Thirty-year-old Rahmi admitted she felt extremely heavy-hearted when she learned that she had to leave her husband and two children far behind and spend three weeks without them.

“I’ve never been far from my family. Moreover, my daughter was only two years old at the time,” she recalled.

However, Rahmi knew she had to leave in order to improve her life – and her family’s. Up until then, she had been living in a small house with her family, with her husband being the sole breadwinner in the family working at a car wash place.

As she was yearning to contribute to the family’s livelihood, Rahmi was therefore happy when she was one of the two people to be selected by the Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Community Development team to receive training in the art of fabric weaving in Pekanbaru, Riau.

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